Author Archives: amandapartlow

Amore Mio

Franco stumbled into the dark basement with a mingled look of shock and relief on his face. He ran his dirty hands through his thick black hair as a bit of a nervous habit. For weeks, he’d been waiting for this moment and now he was too choked up to get the words out. Of course, when had he ever needed words with Sophia. He crossed the damp, dimly lit room in a couple of strides and fell to his knees in front of the woman bound and gagged there in a rickety, wooden chair.

“I do not know how I found you,” he cried, carefully pulling the tape from her mouth, “I can’t believe I found you, Sophia. I’ve been losing my mind.” Franco pulled out his pocket knife and cut the ropes loose from her wrists and ankles.

Sophia flew forward and threw her arms around his neck. She clung to Franco, sobbing as he ran his fingers through her dark, matted hair. He pulled her back and let his eyes scan over her body for injuries. Her dark, chocolate eyes were blood shot and outlined in dark shadows. Her wrists were rubbed raw from the ropes and her hair was dirty and tangled. Overall she looked unscathed.

“Amore mio, amore mio, amore mio,” Sophia whispered over and over, holding his face in her hands, tears flowing as she spoke, “What did you do, amore mio?”

“It is not important, darling. I’m here. It’s all going to be alright.” Franco ran his thumb across her tear stained cheek. He stared deep into her big, brown eyes and found himself falling in love all over again. He leaned his forehead against hers and sighed, “What would I have done without you?”

“Amore mio,” she whispered as she tilted her face, brushing her lips gently against Franco’s trembling mouth.

Franco’s breath hitched at the touch of her kiss. He’d almost forgotten how soft and full her lips were. He felt his mouth start to move with hers. Cautious, at first, then as the heat began to flow through his body, the kiss grew more intense. He ran his hands down the curve of Sophia’s back, pulling her body into his. She fit perfectly against him. She always had; he knew she always would. His hands found the hem of her shirt and he slid them under the red fabric; his fingertips dancing along her skin.

“Well, well, prince charming has finally shown up,” A husky voice caused the lovers to release their grip on each other. “It took you long enough, Franco.”

Panic filled Franco’s eyes as he put himself in front of Sophia, blocking her from view.

His gazed went up the basement stairs and centered on the man there. He had dark hair, a neatly trimmed goatee, and wore an expensive suit. His smile was friendly but his eyes were deadly. Franco had never known whether he should trust or fear him. Bruno Giovanni; the most powerful man in Little Italy.

“You should have just done as I asked,” Bruno smiled then nodded toward something behind Franco and Sophia.

Franco turned to find out what Bruno had gestured to just as a heavy force collided with the back of his head. The pain shot through him like lightning as he fell chest down on the concrete floor. The last thing he saw before darkness took over was Sophia’s face as a silent scream escaped her lips. A scream that was obviously a call for him; “Amore mio”.

Franco opened his eyes and squinted at the light in the room. Everything was spinning and his head was exploding with pain. He squeezed his eyes tight as an attempt to cease the swaying of the room. Slowly, he opened them again, regaining some focus. He glanced around, attempting to analyze his surroundings, but the room was completely bare aside from the chair he sat tied to. The walls were white and window less. Empty and cold. He knew this is where he was going to die.

“Did you have a nice nap?” Franco heard Bruno’s voice come from then now open door. Bruno was smiling. That same welcoming smile he always had plastered to his face. That deceiving smile that made people trust every word he said.

“Where’s Sophia?” Franco groaned.

“Ah, my friend, she’s right outside. I’ll bring her in shortly but first, I have a question that I’m going to need an answer to.” Bruno strolled across the bare floor until he stood directly in front of the chair Franco sat bound to. “Where’d you hide it?”

“I didn’t,” Franco stuttered, dropping his brown eyes to the floor. “I don’t know where it is, Mr. Giovanni.”

“So, it just up and disappeared then?” Bruno’s eyes blazed, but that sweet smile held firm. He turned toward the door and called out, “Bring her in.”

A large man drug Sophia through the door. She looked different than she had in the basement. She was cleaned up and her jeans and t-shirt had been replaced by a sleek, red dress that showed off her voluptuous figure. Franco could see the tattoo on the cleavage showing of her left breast; “amore mio”. She always kept him close to her heart.

Bruno’s goon stood Sophia directly in front of Franco and placed the barrel of a gun against her temple. Her bottom lip quivered as she attempted to fight back the tears lining her eyes. She stared into Franco’s eyes with a look of confusion and acceptance. Confused as to why she was in this situation but accepting that she was about to perish. Franco dropped his eyes from hers; ashamed in himself for placing in the middle of this mess he called life.

“Look at her!” Bruno snapped, moving behind Franco and grabbing a fist full of his hair; forcing his head forward. “Look at her! If you love her at all, you’ll tell me where it is.”

“I don’t…I have no idea” Franco stammered. Disappointment washed over his lover’s face as the tears broke free from their wall. He watched as she cried and gulped for breath and control. His heart shattered at the sight of her pain. His world crumbled at the thought of a lifetime without her. “My house,” he whispered, “beneath the floor boards in the spare bedroom’s closet. It’s all there. Please, just let her go. I’m begging you.”

“I knew you’d come to your senses” Bruno’s kindly voice echoed in the empty room and nodded toward his brute of an employee.

The man holding Sophia pulled the trigger and the bullet danced clean through her skull. Blood poured down her front, blending with her elegant dress. Her small body fell into a heap on the floor as the hands that had been restraining her released. Lifeless; Sophia laid in a crimson lake.

Bruno smiled kindly at Franco’s grief stricken expression. “Love is a dangerous game my friend especially when the game is meant to be war.” He untied Franco from the chair and walked toward the door.

Franco fell to his knees and crawled through the pool of blood surrounding Sophia. His body heaved with uncontrollable gasps. He ran his red stained fingers across the little black tattoo on her chest and he whispered continuously, “amore mio, amore mio, amore mio”.

“By the way, Franco” Bruno spoke cheerfully, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

The Bench

The bench was deceivingly inconspicuous with its chipped paint and creaky wood. It practically promised that if you sat on it you could enjoy your brown paper bag lunch and watch the pigeons fight over crumbs without any life altering events but sometimes the unexpected happens in the most ordinary of places.

Just as he did everyday, Jonathan Harper sat on the white chipped bench with it’s rusted metal legs and ate his salami on rye, lettuce and tomato but no condiments; that would cause soggy bread. He’d drop crumbs for the pigeons and he counted as he chewed. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, swallow, bite, one, two, three.

He inspected his shiny, red apple for bruises just as he had done before packing it that morning but you can never be too sure of such things. He rubbed his apple across the chest of his crisp, white button down for that splendid extra shine. But today, something different happened. As he went for his first bite, a car drove by and blew its horn, startling poor Jonathan. His perfectly polished fruit tumbled from his hand to the ground and rolled under his seat.

Miffed with the idea that germs were now feasting upon his daily snack, he leaned over to rescue it from certain bacterial destruction. Little did he know that simple change in his routine would send the rest of his life into a downward spiral for under that insignificant bench a black, plastic bag was lodged in the swirling décor of the metal leg. He sat up straight, forgetting his apple and argued with himself on whether he should inspect it’s contents.

No, sir, this can mean nothing but trouble, just walk away, his sensible mind insisted.

Curiosity, a voice he hadn’t heard in quite some time, chimed in, what’s in the bag? We have to know.

With a deep breath, he bent forward again. He gathered up the apple and removed the mysterious plastic from its hiding place. He tucked the contaminated food into his paper sack then cleansed his hands with sanitizer he kept in his pocket. Satisfied that no remnants of dirt were left, he lifted the black bag and placed his hand in it. Sticky, wet, spongy.

He pulled his hand back in disgust and found himself staring down at a layer of red oozing between his fingers. The sight sickened him and intrigued him all the same. He felt his stomach lurch but his heart was fluttering with joy. A part of him, a part he’d never encountered, wanted to see more.

No, this is enough. We can not get any further involved in this. Put the bag back and walk away, the voice in his mind screamed.

But it was the whisper that caught his attention. The soft purr inside his brain that told him that this was fate and a new and exciting world would be unlocked if he just pulled out what was in that bag. He wanted it. He wanted the new and the exciting; he wanted the thrill. It was a strange sensation but he found himself yearning to satisfy that little whisper.

Wrap your hand around it, Jonathan. Remove it from the bag. We need to know.

So he obliged. He reached in and what he pulled out silenced the rational voice that for so long had authority over his reasoning. A new voice emerged. It was deeper and darker. He felt the chuckle escape his lips before he could stop it. It grew and swelled until it transformed into a maniacal laughter.

He dropped the cold, human heart back into the bag then tossed it into a nearby garbage bin. Licking his fingers one by one, he cackled as he walked through the park in search of a new heart; a fresh one.

The Fall

Tumbling through the air, the world flashed by in a whirlwind of color. Reaching out into the howling wind, he hoped to grip onto something, anything to slow him down. His hands flailing frantically with nothing more than air catching between his fingertips. His body gained speed as he plummeted further and further until he was plunged beneath the crashing waves of the ocean.

He broke through the surface; gasping; choking. Arms beating fiercely against the water as he tried to stay afloat. Fear engulfed him as he looked around at the endless stretch of the sea. He desperately needed to get to land. Kicking, he pushed his exhausted body to shore. Pulling himself onto the sandy earth, he laid back allowing the waves to brush over the tops of his bare feet.

The night sky smiled down at him. He tilted his head as he studied the stars. He’d never seen them look so small and the moon; he’d never seen Earth’s look so large. The black canvas spread above him was mesmerizing. He suppose he had never truly known it’s beauty because he’d always been a part of it.

Slowly rising to his feet, he wiped at the granules sand clinging to his wet skin. The specks were relentless, sticking to his hands then back to his bare thighs are he tried to escape it’s adhesive texture. Frustration began to build into a ball of fire in his gut and he had a unexpected desire to scream and kick out his legs. Holding back against the urge, he continued to swipe at his body.

“Step into the sea, brother,” a gentle lilt rose from behind him, “Rinse in it’s water and be free of the sands grip.”

A unfamiliar pounding echoed through his chest and he turned. Joy and sorrow filled him as he quickly approached the woman standing there and pulled her into an embrace, “Cadessa, I thought your soul had been lost but you’ve been casted out.”

She pulled back and laid a reassuring hand on his cheek. A smile touched lips but sadness danced in her sapphire eyes as the wind blew a strand of black hair across her face. She didn’t reply. She simply slipped her hand into his and led him back into the ocean. Cupping water into her palms, she began to wash off his skin. He studied her hands work; brushing over the plains of his body. Her fingertips lingered of the golden script branded into his skin, marking him the storm.

“Who will bring the rains,” Cadessa whispered as she traced the swirling designs.

He looked away from her and to the sky.

“Ranburne,” his name fell from her lips like a song, “Who will bring the rains?”

 

Moving Day

Axel Graves taped up yet another box and pushed it to the corner with the rest of them. He’d spent most of the day organizing and packing up for the big move. The house was beginning to look less like a home with each object he tucked away. It amazed him when you took away the furniture and the pictures off the wall; all that was left were empty rooms.

Axel ran his hand across the wall as he made his way down the hall. He pushed open the door to the master bedroom and stared at the vacant space. He’d torn apart the king sized bed and left the pieces by the front door for the movers. The dresser still sat in its usual place against the wall and the picture from his wedding day still hung above it. He moved forward and touched the black and white canvas print.

Gwen had looked so beautiful that day. Her blonde hair was spiraling down in curls and flowers. Her full lips were a crimson red and her elegant, white dress hugged her perfect figure. She wore the smile of a woman in love. Her blue eyes were bright as they gazed into the face of her groom. Axel had shaved the scruff he usually kept on his face that day, just to become the perfect image for her. His black hair was freshly cut and his gray eyes were aglow. All was right that day, all was as it was intended to be.

Removing the photo off the wall, Axel dropped to the floor and sat there with his legs crossed. He closed his eyes as thought back to the day they had moved to this place. It had been Gwen’s persistence that had brought them here. She fell in love with the tiny town and the house that sat on the corner of the street with a pretty picket fence around it.

*“Three bedrooms, two baths, and in a great school district.” She smiled sweetly at him, batting her long eyelashes. “It’s the perfect place to start a family.”

“Let’s not rush into the whole family thing, sugar. I’d like to have you all to myself for a few years.” Axel pulled her into him, brushing his lips against her ear as he whispered.*

It seemed to be all she ever thought about from that day…a family. He tried to give her what she wanted, but they just couldn’t get pregnant. Five years and they never had a positive test. The disappointment had started to show in Gwen’s eyes and the light she once carried for her husband had started to dim. Did she blame him? Or did she blame herself and let it consume her completely? At the time, he was not certain so he’d gone to the doctor and found out his sperm count was low and the likeliness of him ever giving his wife a child was very slim.

Axel told Gwen the news and had thought some of the pressure would be off her after knowing that it was his fault and not hers. Things did begin to change, but not for the better as he’d hoped. She grew cold and distant. She avoided being at home and never looked at him the same. The passion that had shone so brightly in her eyes on their wedding day had faded. Nevertheless, he kept loving her through her pain.

Until that day, that day when his heart shattered with two simple words, “I’m pregnant”. She beamed at him and threw her arms around his neck. Gwen spun around in the living room, her smile radiant and contagious. Axel grinned back at her as his mind reeled for answers to this miracle. They hadn’t touched each other for months and here his wife was announcing her pregnancy.

Ten weeks in, Gwen miscarried. She holed herself up in their room for weeks. She laid curled on their bed and cried constantly. Axel tried to comfort her the best he knew how. She would shrug him off and roll over to face the opposite direction. He attempted to give her time and space, until it began to eat at him and anger him that his wife would treat him this way.

“Gwendolyn, my love, maybe you should alert the father that you lost his child,” Axel remembered how cold the words had sounded coming out of his mouth.

“It’s your fault,” She whispered in between her sobs, “All of it. I wouldn’t have had to find another man if you had just given me what I wanted.”*

Axel shook his head and found himself back in the nearly empty room of their home. He stared down at the photograph in his hands and examined the happy couple there. He pulled a pocket knife from his jeans and flipped it open. With a passionate fury, he hacked away at the newly weds looking up at him. Ripping the print to pieces. Pushing himself to his feet, he marched over to the dresser and pulled open the top drawer.

Gwen’s eyes stared up at him blank and wide. Her blonde hair pooled out on the wooden surface and where her body had once been laid a crimson stain. Axel ran his finger tips across her cheek and smiled lovingly down at her.

“It’s moving day, my love. I know you’ll be delighted to see our new home. Three bedrooms, two baths, and it’s a beautiful place to start a family.”

Ditches

The euphoric vibrations of revenge hummed in Oliver Drennon’s veins as he continuously tapped the dangling light above his victim’s head with his long fingers. Tap. Tap. Tap. He smiled as the man strapped to the chair winced each time the fixture swung toward him, shining on his battered face. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tilting his head to the side, he studied his prisoner, waiting for his face to show he was breaking.

“Where’s my money, Felix?” he squatted down in front of the man and stared him down with ice, blue eyes.  “I don’t want to hurt you, my friend, but we both know I will.”

The man replied by spitting in Oliver’s face, blood dribbling into his thick beard.

“Alright, you don’t want to tell me where my money is then where is my lucky lighter?”

“I didn’t touch your lighter,”  Felix furrowed his brows; uncertain what kind of game this psychopath was playing.

“Damnit, you took my pants, you took my lighter!” Oliver slammed a fist into his face, “You think you know a guy,” he tried holding back his laughter but a small chuckle escaped his lips, “until they rob you blind and leave you standing naked on the side of the road.”

“You’re crazy!”

“I told you that when we partnered up and you still decided to screw me over.” A menacing smile twitched at the corners of his mouth as he turned away, moving to a workbench on the other side of the dim, cramped room.

“Wh..what are you doing?”

“I’m going torture you, silly,” He peered over his shoulder and laughed again, “What a stupid question.”

Oliver found what he was looking for and lifted the tool above his head shouting, “Eureka!”.  A quick turn of his heal, he marched over to Felix’s chair and knelt in front of him, “BOO!”.

Giddy to be getting to work, he unlaced the big man’s boots and slid them off, following with his socks. Wrinkling up his nose at the smell, he inspected each hairy toe. He chose the little one on the left foot. Oliver glanced up then held up the tool. Needle nosed pliers. Carefully, he pushed the open tip under Felix’s toenail, causing him to scream.

“Come on, it’s going to be a long night if you screech like a little girl every time I touch you.”

When the screaming dwindled down to panting breaths, he closed the pliers over the nail then ripped it off. The wailing began again. With a dramatic roll of his eyes, Oliver went back to the bench and returned with a piece of leather.

“Are you ready to talk? Where’s my lighter?”

“I don’t know where the damn lighter is,” Felix yelled, tears rolling down his cheeks, soaking the hair at his chin.

“I meant the money, you know I meant the money,” Oliver lifted a finger and pointed, “Where’s the money? Thirteen million dollars doesn’t just walk aw…actually it did. It walked away because you took it!”

“You’re insane, Drennon!”

Oliver stuffed the leather strap in Felix’s mouth then grabbed another toe and ripped the nail out with more force and anger. A loud bellow of pain filled the room, the strip dropped to the ground, but Oliver hollered over it, “I’m waiting.”

A quiet knock at the door caused Oliver’s head to snap up. He whistled quietly as he sauntered over, twirling the pliers around his fingers. Cracking the door, he peered out then with an excited grin opened it the rest of the way.

A little girl with long, black curls and the same blue eyes as Felix’s captor stepped inside, followed by a tall, exotic woman, “Mommy says I have to go to bed.”

“It is late, baby,” Oliver bent down and kissed the tip of her nose, “As soon as daddy is done working, I’ll be right in to make sure you’re tucked in real tight.”

The child stared at Felix with accusing eyes that said he was the reason her father wasn’t inside with his family. He shifted nervously in his chair, ropes rubbing his wrists raw. He glanced down hoping she’d look away but her glare held strong.

“Don’t be rude, Felix, say hello to my wife and daughter. Cleo,” Oliver pulled the woman close, “Annabelle,” he ran a hand through his offspring’s hair, “this is Felix; my associate.”
“Oliver,” Cleo leaned in, planting a quick kiss on her husband’s neck, “the news is saying a large reward is being offered for any information that leads to the arrest of…”

Holding up a hand, he cut her off, “You know what they say about snitches, my love.”

“I do,” Little Annabelle bounced up on her toes, “they end up in ditches.”

“That’s my girl,” he ruffled her hair, “See, Cleo, this is clearly the only way. Now, you two, head inside and I’ll be there very soon.”

Cleo’s dark eyes landed on the man in the chair, “You’re right, honey,” she turned a convincing smile over to him as he ushered them out the door.

Oliver made his way over to the workbench and picked up a rusted saw. He turned around and pointed at it then pointed to Felix as if to ask if he thought it was a good choice. Shaking his head, he turned around and dropped the instrument back onto the wooden surface. He took an axe down from a rack on the wall and grinned broadly at it.

With a skip in his step, he prowled around and around the chair with his new weapon propped against his shoulder. He ran his long fingers over the armrests and across the back as he circled his prey. Dropping to his knees, he eyeballed Felix then tapped his leg with the sharp blade of the axe.

“How attached are you to this leg?” Oliver laughed as Felix whimpered. “Would you like to keep the kneecap or should I cut above it? It’s your choice really.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Why did you steal my lighter?” His cold eyes became briefly distant before he reeled his wandering mind back in, “You took my share of the money and my lighter. You left me with nothing even though I did most of the work.”

Scrambling to his feet, he pulled the axe back then plunged it into Felix’s leg, just below the shin. He swung the hatchet again and buried it into denim and flesh. The high pitched wails seemed to drive his fury further and further as he hacked away. He pivoted, beginning to bring the axe down again but he stopped inches from his target. He tilted his head, staring down at Felix’s trembling body.

“What’s in your pocket?”

“What are you talking about? Please,” Felix whimpered, “Just kill me and get it over with.”

“What’s in your pocket?,” Oliver bent down and stuffed his hand into the pocket and pulled out a small, silver lighter. “All this time. You had it all this time. There, in your pocket.” A low chuckle escaped his lips, “All this time. In your pocket,” the laugh grew, “You could’ve saved yourself a lot of trouble, my friend.”

A loud bang issued from the door startling both men. Silence filled the tiny room. The bang came again. Shrugging his shoulders, Oliver swung the axe around in a circle as he moved toward the door. He opened the entry way then glanced back at his hostage.
“Police,” A voice yelled, “put your hands up.”

He spun around and slung the axe across the room. The sharp blade drove through Felix’s head and settled half way through his skull. Oliver slowly shifted himself into the direction of the officers piling into the little shed building with his hands above his head.

“Sorry about that,” He raised his eyebrows, giving them an innocent look, “I thought it’d be best to drop my weapon so you wouldn’t get the impression I meant you fine fellas any harm.”

Two policemen grabbed a hold of him and pushed him against the wall. One patted him down, searching for any other weapons while the other cuffed his hands behind his back.

“He’s clean. All he has is this lighter,” the younger of the two held up the shiny silver square then dropped it into a plastic bags labeled ‘evidence’.

“I’d like to have that back, please,” Oliver smiled politely.

“This piece of junk is the least of your worries,” the senior officer laughed as he shoved Oliver out the door.

He looked up to see Cleo standing next to a car with whirling blue lights and her arms crossed over her chest. She watched with wide eyes as the officials lead him across the yard. Stepping forward, she looked to the senior officer who gave her a nod then threw her arms around her grinning husband’s neck in a hug.

Oliver laid the side of his face against hers and breathed in her scent. He kissed her gently on the cheek then leaned in and hissed, “You know what they say about snitches.”

Cleo pulled back and met his cold stare. She lifted her hand and wiggled her fingers in front of her husbands face to wave goodbye then turned around to find Annabelle standing there with a twisted smile on her pretty little face.

The child grabbed her mother by the hand, watching the blue lights fade as they drove away, and whispered, “Ditches.”

Another Broken Heart

WARNING -Sexual content below. Not suitable for those under 18. (Not like you youngsters haven’t seen or read worse before.)

 

She wore darkness in the way that most women would wear a little black dress. It hugged her curves and accentuated her beauty. And if he was honest with himself, Payne much preferred the wicked fire in her eyes to sexy attire. Just watching her tease and torment their target was fueling his desire.

“You are Elaine Garrett,” she purred, straddling the young woman tied to the oversized bed, “aren’t you?”

The girl nodded with fear in her eyes and tears on her cheeks as she gripped the thick plastic that had been placed over crisp, white sheets.

“And you know why our boss wants you dead,” she nipped her ear with red painted lips as Elaine nodded again, “What a shame though. You’re really such a pretty little thing,” she glanced over her shoulder with seductive eyes, “don’t you think, Payne?”

“Yes ma’am. She’s gorgeous, ” Payne grinned then shook his head in disappointment, “but you know the rules, Lila.”

“I know,” she pouted with a sigh, “so, shall I do her or would you like the honors, my love?”

“Don’t tease me, baby,” he groaned then stepped forward, handing Lila a gleaming dagger.

Elaine struggled beneath the weight of her captor and pulled against the restraints. Lila giggled gleefully and wiggled her hips as she forcefully slid the blade across her throat. She smiled down at the girl while she gargled and struggled to hang onto life.

“Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door,” she sang in a mocking whisper as the light faded in those beautiful blue eyes. Rolling off the bed, she patted Payne on the chest then strolled through the door leading to a bathroom, “You can take it from here, gorgeous.”

Before he could argue, Lila closed the door and started the shower. He reached into a closet in the corner of the room and pulled out a long, black bag. He unzipped the center then laid it down next to the bed. He cut the ropes from the girl’s wrists and ankles then began to remove her small diamond earrings and silver bracelet. He cleaned the blood from her body then moved her limp corpse into the bag on the floor.

Lifting the now weighted duffle, Payne carried it to the hall and set it down on a gurney. He reached back into the room and pulled a jacket and hat off a hook by the door; both stating ‘Bloodstone Funeral Home’ in bold red letters. He slid the jacket on and pulled the cap low on his brow, just above his eyes. He pushed the stretcher through the hall, into an elevator and hit the down button.

Once he’d reached the bottom floor, he guided the body into a well lit corridor. He stopped midway through and looked up at a blinking florescent; making a mental note to put in a new bulb. Moving forward, he shoved the rolling bed through the swinging, double doors at the end of the hallway.

“Another one?,” A short, round man in goggles and a paper gown looked up from the body he’d been working on, “They sure are keeping you busy lately.”

“That’s what happens when you piss off the boss,” he replied as he parked Elaine near a far wall, “Straight to the crematory, Mort.”

“My name is Vince. We’ve gone over this a million times,” The man pushed his goggles to the top of his head as he strolled over and unzipped the bag to check out the victim, “Oh, wow, she’s hot. Makes you wonder what she was doing to the boss.”

“Lila was rather fond of her too,” Payne stared into the beautiful, lifeless face; fantasizing. He grinned at the mortician then headed out the door, “Into the burner, Mort. Don’t mess around.”

He made his way back to the elevator and up to the room where he’d left Lila. He opened the door to find her pulling tight jeans over her hips. His brown eyes locked onto hers and she could see the hunger that laid beyond his stare. He shivered as she leaned her lace covered breast against him and bit at his neck. With a devious smile, she turned away to grab the blouse that laid on the dresser behind her.

Throwing a hand forward, he grabbed a fistful of the dark waves of hair that hung past her shoulders. He caught a glimpse of her smirk as he drug her across the room and bent her over the bed where Elaine Garrett had died less than an hour before. Payne jerked her jeans down her thighs then worked on removing his pants with the hand that wasn’t entangled in her thick locks.

His erection released from it’s confines and his lust growing, he used his booted foot to spread Lila’s legs then buried himself between them. He thrust into her over and over as she struggled to free herself from his grasp; trying not to let the moans escaping her lips come out loud enough to meet his ears. As he pulled back to pump into her again, she was able to break his grip and roll over.

Her fist collided into his face and she pulled back to hit him again for good measure when she saw his bleeding lips twitch into a grin. Her breast rose and fell in deep gasps beneath their decorative prison. She swung to punch him once more and found herself laughing as he caught her wrist. His weakness was pleasure and hers was pain but the darkness poured from their skin in a toxic aroma just the same.

Lila grabbed his shoulders; pulling him down on top of her and began to dig her manicured nails into the back of his neck. He plowed into her again; this time she gave her body to him freely. With his rhythm found, he glared down at her hateful stare and watched as the anger melted in her eyes to be replaced by ecstasy. Her moans grew and he panted, holding on for dear life; refusing to give into his body until she’d been pushed over the edge.

Her hips began to jerk beneath him and with both hands, she pulled him down to her by his short blonde hair. He nipped at her collar and kissed her jawline as he felt her shudder beneath him in release. A low growl filled his throat as he picked up pace the stopped with a groan as he allowed himself finish inside of her.

Payne pulled his shirt off and threw it at her with a playful smile. He kicked off his work boots and stepped out of his pants as he headed to the bathroom to shower.

“Payne,” Lila called, causing him to turn back to look at her; legs still spread and her cheeks flush, “she was a pretty little thing, wasn’t she?”

He licked his lips with a devious gleam in his eyes then closed the bathroom door.

Payne woke before the sun the following morning and found himself passing the time by watching Lila sleep. Her slow, steady breaths were a melody to his ears and peaceful look on her face intrigued him. In her waking hours, her eyes were filled with chaos and her lips so often curled into a sneer. But while she slept; she was at ease.

He squinted at his wristwatch then rolled out of bed. Vince should be coming into work any moment and he wanted to make sure he had taken care of Elaine’s body as he’d been instructed. You could always count on the mortician to mess around and not get to the most crucial tasks first.

He pulled on the pants he’d be wearing the day before and opened the closest for a fresh shirt. Stepping into his boots, he looked back to see Lila beginning to stir. He knelt beside the bed and pressed his mouth gently to hers. She responded with a sleepy sighed. He slid his hand under the sheets and between her legs. He rubbed her through the cotton of the shorts she wore to sleep in. She moaned and responded more forcefully to his kiss.

“I’ll be right back,” he whispered against her lips.

“No,” she groaned, holding his hand in place and encouraging him to continue touching, “Stay.”

“I promise, I’ll be right back.”

“I loathe you,” she growled in annoyance.

“Aw,” he smiled, knowing she adored him, “I love you too.”

He kissed her forehead then left the room. Down the elevator and through the hall, he smiled to himself as he thought of all the things he planned to do to her when he returned. He pushed open the swinging twin doors and spotted Vince pulling out his tools to prepare for the day.

“Hey Mort,” Payne called with a sly grin, “Did you take care of the body I brought you yesterday?”

“You know it’s Vince, you just do this to annoy me,” he answered, placing his goggles on top of his head as he walked over to a wooden desk cramped into the corner then returned with an envelope, “Mr. Bloodstone stopped by. He wanted me to give this to you. He looked pissed.”

“This must be payment for the Garrett girl.”

“You and Lila aren’t,” Vince pumped his hips and squinted his face, “you know?”

Payne rolled his eyes and slipped a finger under the sealed to open the package. He peered inside to see a handful of letters cut from magazines and newspapers. He pulled out a couple of the cutouts and inspected them as he walked to Vince’s desk.

Shuffling through the piles of files, he pulled out a blank piece of copy paper and a roll of tape. He poured the contents out onto the desk and began to arrange them onto the white page. He shook his head as he worked the puzzle out and secured all the pieces.

“Not a paycheck, I’m assuming.”

“No,” Payne replied, quickly folding the slip of paper and stuffing it into his pocket, “It’s my next target. I’ll see you later.”

He strolled out the door and up the hallway to the elevator. While he waited for the chime to say he could board, he pulled out the paper and stared down at it. He carefully contemplated his next moved but he knew he was thinking more on emotion than logic. The metal wall clanged and rattled open, allowing him to step inside. Once he reached his floor, Payne stood outside of the door and took a deep breath.

He walked inside and headed straight to the closet, pulling out a bag then throwing clothes from their hangers into it. He glanced over at the bed to see Lila sitting there with her back turned toward him.

“We’re leaving,” he ordered, “Get up and pack. Quickly.”

She glanced over her shoulder, glaring at him with cold eyes. The only thing that gave her away were the smudges of mascara that lined her cheeks. She didn’t move, she simply watched him. Payne shook his head. He pulled the bag to the small dresser and started pulling Lila’s clothes from it.

“It’s going to be alright,” he muttered as he packed hastily.

He heard the sound of the curtains opening and looked up wondering why the room hadn’t gotten brighter. He turned around to see the window had been painted black except for a few markings that allowed small pinpoints of light to shine through. Slowly, he shifted his vision to the spot above the dresser where the sun painted two words along the wall:

SHERMAN PAYNE

He clambered to his feet and uneasily pivoted to face Lila. He took a shaky breath when he saw the gun in her hands; pointed toward his chest. Hope filled him as he saw the shimmer of tears begin to line her eyes. Her jaw was set but her eyes gave away the pain she felt. He took a step forward, slowing raising his hands.

“Baby,” Payne pleaded, maneuvering around the bed to stand in front of her, “you don’t have to do this.”

“If I don’t, he will.”

“Please, we can leave. It will be alright. Everything will be fine.”

“I wish that were true.”

“Lila…” he started then stopped as she placed the muzzle against his heart.

He removed the sheet of paper folded in his pocket and laid it open on the bed. The puzzle of letters formed together in another death sentence:

Lila Rae Bloodstone

He dropped to his knees and grabbed the barrel of the gun, moving it to rest directly between his eyes.

“You better not miss,” he forced a reassuring smile.

The last sounds Payne heard were her sobs and the click of the chamber as the bullet released, dancing through his skull to leave a morbid painting of heartbreak on the wall behind him.

Lucifer’s Monster

His eyes fluttered open, glazed over and burning from days of sleep. How long had it been? Six days, the answer immediately came to him. Yes, it had to be.

He could remember the intense pain that occurred with each sunrise and the cooling of his skin when the moon found its way into the sky. He felt all of it but could see nothing more than darkness behind his sealed eyelids. He could feel the changes deep in his veins as his body shifted and transformed into something new. Into what? He wasn’t completely sure. All he knew was a power filled his body and a burning so intense barreled from his throat to the very pit of his stomach.

He was thirsty. Water. He needed water.

No, that wouldn’t be enough. Something more. Wine? No, but he was getting closer. Something intoxicating; alluring; he needed more to quench this thirst.

He sat up quickly; sniffing the air. His hazy eyes darted around his surroundings. What is this place?

Snow capped mountains, desert sands, rolling hills, a thick forest off in the distance. Nothing matched. The only thing about this place that seemed consistent was the sky. It was a deep, terrifying purple and streaks of lightning continuously shot across the dark clouds; yet there was no thunder.

Not a single rumble.

It frightened him and filled him with excitement all at once. There was a veritable power here.
Scanning the area, he spotted a lake near an opening of the forest. He stood, placing a foot forward to begin the long walk across the ever changing terrain. With one step, he found himself speeding; gliding; towards the far off watering hole. Within seconds, he stopped just inches from the…water?

Falling to his knees, he drove his hands through the surface of the thick, black liquid that stretched out before him. Except when he lifted his cupped hands, he saw it was not black. It wasn’t even the pure, crystal blue that water often was. No, it was a deep, crimson red.
It was blood. Thick, sticky, salty, warm blood.

His throat burned as the smell drifted under his nose. Saliva filled his mouth and a yearning rumbled in his stomach.

Bringing his filled, curved hands to his lips, he drank. He feasted. Plummeting his hands into the bloody lake over and over, gulping down its contents.

The taste was nothing as he remembered of times that he’d cut a finger while sharpening his sword. When he’d place the wound to his mouth to stop the bleeding, it was bitter and salty. But this was different. It was sweet and filling and he could feel it cooling that nagging burn in his throat.

He drank until his stomach felt full and the longing faded. He sat back and leaned against the trunk of a nearby tree. That’s when he heard it for the first time; a sound that caused a smile to spread across his face and the hairs on his arms to stand with excitement.

Screaming.

The scream of someone being tortured. The sound of someone withering in agony. Except it wasn’t the sound of just one, it was thousands. Possibly millions of petrified, painful screams.
That sound. That magnificent, torturous sound was a precious melody to his ears. It reminded him of the many souls who denied him as their king back in Romania. Their betrayals found them flogged repeatedly and starved. The useless peasants would silently fight the pain for days, sometimes even weeks, until it became too much to bear. That is when the screaming would begin. Delusional, blood curdling screams. It was sweet music to him then in Romania and it was sweet music to him now in…

Where am I?

“Welcome, my child,” a deep and musical voice came from behind him, pulling him from his thoughts, “I’ve waited a long time for your arrival. I was beginning to grow impatient and was tempted to come above to kill you myself.” The man smiled sweetly as if he’s just given the highest compliment known to man.

He considered the man who stood before him.

He was tall and had the build of a powerful warrior. Golden waves of hair fell to his shoulders and his eyes were glowing yellow like the morning sun. His cheeks bones were high and his slender nose was placed perfectly in the center of his face. He was picturesque; angelic; inhuman.

“What is this place and who are you to wish for my death?” his voice came out stern and fierce.

He had always been a man of power and he did not mean to alter his mannerisms for the stranger who stood before him.

“Lazar,” the lyrical voice spoke his name. “I am Earth’s greatest fear. Many moons ago, I stood at the feet of the Messiah and worshiped without question. I surrendered my life in the heavens for a life of understanding that not everything arises out of love. Now I rule the underworld and feed off the doubts, hatred, and desire for power that comes from mankind. I feed on the soul’s of men; men like you.” He stood tall and straight as he introduced himself. “I am Lucifer and this, my son, is my paradise. This is Hell.”

A smile touched Lazar’s lips as he looked into the face of Satan himself, “And your wish for me, my lord?”

“To bring my wrath to the surface. You shall walk the Earth as a man who died but has returned to destroy the human race. You will feed from the innocent and the weak. You will drain them of hope, life, and blood. You will transform those who prove themselves worthy and you will use them to create my army. Your purpose, Lazar; my son, is chaos and devastation.”

“What’s in it for me?”

Anger filled Lucifer’s eyes, darkening them to a fiery orange and his voice boomed in fury, causing the ground to quake beneath their feet, “For you? I owe you nothing! Yet, I offer you everything! You have the courage to question me? You are a fool!”

Lazar stood before the dark one, unfazed by his bout of anger.

He’d slain rulers who threw bigger tantrums than this and when they were killed by his hand he sat upon their thrones and ruled their people. Fear was not something he ever welcomed into his heart and he was not starting.

“If I get nothing of this, find another soul to do your bidding. Please allow me to burn in your fire pits or freeze on your snow capped mountains, ” he gestured behind him to the ever changing terrain. “I do not fear you, my lord. There must be something in it for me or I will stay here in your kingdom and in a matter of time, I swear I will rule in your place.”

“Immortality,” Satan growled.

“Well, that sounds promising.” Lazar grinned and clasped his hands together in excitement, “Let’s begin.”